Are EVs easy? Follow Robin Mellon from Sydney to Melbourne and back as he road-tests and prices the electric vehicle revolution.
Having been immersed in sustainability for a few decades, I’ve now got a dirty little secret. Well, maybe not so dirty. After being carless for years, relying on public transport and car-share networks, I recently bought an electric vehicle (EV) and I’m loving it for several reasons:
- Inexpensive – a full charge costs less than AU$4 and will cover about 280 kilometres
- Low-emissions – using my local EV charging network means using renewable energy
- Maintainable – quite literally, less moving parts to go wrong makes it cheaper to maintain
- Zippy – not a technical word, but there’s immediate power and no gears to work through
- Silent – quieter excursions, calmer trips, less acoustic stress while driving
- Smug – you wouldn’t believe how smug, even with the cheapest EV on the market.
And after a month of putting the car through its paces locally, I’m going to drive from Sydney to Melbourne inland (around 900 km) to MC the UN Global Compact Network Australia event Making Global Goals Local Business, and then back along the Victorian and NSW coast (around 1300 km including meetings with local councils).
Over those 2200 km I want to discover and share with you:
- How easy it is to charge up along the way (are the charge points working, are there queues, are the systems and connections simple?)
- How much it costs to charge (how much to drive 100 km, how much for the whole trip)
- How long it takes to charge in different places (some are ultra-fast, some overnight)
- How ‘range anxiety’ (the fear that you don’t have enough power to reach your destination) really plays out driving interstate, or across rural and regional areas.
My next posts in The Fifth Estate will outline how easy the inland Sydney-to-Melbourne trip was (and how much it cost, to the cent), then detail the coastal Melbourne-to-Sydney trip (complete with a few tips for motels with charging points).
It will be interesting to see how Australia’s EV market evolves in the coming years. In 2020, the sale of battery electric cars in Norway overtook those powered by petrol, diesel and hybrid engines, representing 54.3 per cent of all new cars sold. Whereas in 2020 EVs accounted for just 0.7 per cent of total Australian car sales.
Much of the slow uptake can be put down to the inhospitable political climate for EVs, as well as the need for more charging infrastructure and the corresponding “range anxiety” when distances across Australia are considered.
Electric Vehicles have been in the news a lot recently, with governments of every flavour talking about incentivising them, taxing them, encouraging them or dismissing them (they’ll “end the weekend”, after all).
Yes, all car owners should contribute to roads and infrastructure however their vehicle is powered. But continuing to subsidise the fossil fuel sector ($10.3 billion a year last year, according to The Australia Institute) whilst penalising low-emissions or zero-emissions vehicles seems skewed, if not nonsensical. Not least because cars represent Australia’s third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions at over 18 per cent of total emissions. It’s time for a change.
However, it’s encouraging to see where progress is being made. Recent projects such as Plasgain’s carbon-neutral plastic recycling process, with electric vehicle charging facilities, reflect the change in business mindsets.
Award-winning food and drink destinations such as Mountain Ridge Wines, near Berry in NSW, have installed car charging points (both Tesla and Universal Type 2 chargers) with photovoltaic panels to supply renewable energy to their customers (with upgraded electrical infrastructure to handle the increased loads charging requires).
And, in early 2020, Waverley, Woollahra and Randwick Councils in Sydney’s eastern suburbs started installing public on-street electric vehicle charging stations in key destination hotspots from Coogee to Double Bay; the first on-street public charging stations of this type in Sydney, and the first local government-backed on-street NSW charging infrastructure.
As you’ll have read recently in The Fifth Estate, there are those who shriek from the rooftops that “less mobility is the climate solution for transport”, as if we can change the design of our cities, destinations and transit patterns overnight.
But it’s not one OR the other – better urban design OR better vehicles – it’s both. While Australia is home to a growing and increasingly urban population, improved urban design, increased co-location and massive investment in public transport by themselves will be insufficient to address emissions, crowding and congestion in our cities.
A deliberate shift towards electric vehicles represents another meaningful step towards a clean transport future, as well as a more mindful way of making those trips that we still need to make by car.
So, let’s get real and consider the numbers, the range and the cost. Join me, over the next few updates, as I tell you a bit about what this electric vehicle revolution is really like, as well as how easy, how fast and how much it is to charge up on the way. Feel free to ask questions, express doubts, and make comments.
Robin Mellon is chief executive officer of Better Sydney, project manager for the Property Council of Australia’s Modern Slavery Working Group and Supplier Platform, and NSW program adviser for Better Building Finance. And now an EV nerd.